Florida lawmaker proposes creating a state hemp program

With officials seeing a potentially lucrative industry, Senate Agriculture Chairman Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, is proposing creation of a state hemp program.

Albritton on Thursday filed a bill that would set up the program under the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The bill came after Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried last week named Holly Bell as the state’s first director of cannabis, a position that is expected to focus on building a hemp industry.

The bill also comes as agriculture officials say hemp production could help farmers and timber owners in Northwest Florida who sustained heavy damage in Hurricane Michael.

Albritton’s bill mirrors a proposal (HB 333) filed last month in the House by Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, and Rep. Sam Killebrew, R-Winter Haven, and is similar to a proposal (SB 1020), filed this week by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island.

Under Albritton’s bill, people or businesses seeking to grow, process or sell hemp would be required to register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It also includes requirements dealing with issues as inspecting sites where hemp is grown and processed.

Hemp is drawing heavy attention after the passage of a federal farm bill that broadly legalized hemp, a cannabis plant that does not contain euphoria-inducing THC.

Hemp can be used in numerous products, including rope and textiles. The bills are filed for consideration during the legislative session that starts March 5.

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